As it was my birthday on August 27th, I thought would have a birth poem this month, for Virgo people. I chose Sylvia Plath, not because she was a Virgo, but because this is such a startling poem, and the opening image is wonderful – the child in time, and probably, subliminally, somewhere with me when I wrote TANGLEWRECK, with its trope of the Timekeeper.
Plath was born in 1932 in Boston, married the British poet Ted Hughes in 1956, and committed suicide in 1963. This poem comes from her collection ARIEL, published after her death.
Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.
Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.
I’m no more your mother
Than the cloud that distils a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind’s hand.
All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.
One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square
Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.